Philippine police resume war on drugs, cannot promise to avoid bloodshed

The Philippine police chief said his force will resume visits to the homes of drug suspects in the resumption of the drug war to encourage them to reform. (AP)
Updated 30 January 2018

Philippine police resume war on drugs, cannot promise to avoid bloodshed

MANILA: Police in the Philippines on Monday resumed President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, making visits to the homes of users and dealers to convince them to surrender, but the national police chief said he could not promise a bloodless campaign.
The announcement came as the justice department filed its first criminal case against police officers in the battle against drugs, bolstering human rights activists’ accusations of fabricated accounts of shoot-outs with drug suspects.
The program of visits, known as “Oplan Tokhang,” made a comeback with an assurance from police chief Ronaldo dela Rosa that it should be free of violence if offenders agreed to go quietly and did not resist.
But he could not promise a “foolproof anti-drug campaign that would be bloodless,” Dela Rosa added, as the police were “not dealing with people who are in their proper state of mind.”
In the dialect of Duterte’s southern hometown of Davao, “Tokhang” is a combination of the words “knock” and “plead.”
Besides the visits, police have also run so-called “buy-bust” or sting operations and raided suspected drug dens and illicit laboratories.
In many of these operations, say rights activists, suspects did not get the chance to surrender, but were executed in cold blood instead. But police insist suspects died because they violently resisted arrest.
Nearly 4,000 drug suspects have died in gunbattles with police since June 2016, when Duterte came to power. The government lost 85 police and soldiers in the drugs war, police data show.
More than 1.2 million people had also turned themselves in after the home visits.
Duterte has stopped police anti-drugs operations twice due to questions over the conduct of the force, including the killing of a teenager in a supposed anti-drug operation.
On Monday, the Department of Justice filed murder charges and two drug-related cases against three police officers who killed the teenager, Kian Loyd delos Santos, after witnesses disputed the police version of the killing.
National police spokesman Dionardo Carlos said the force welcomed the filing.
“The police officers have to face their accusers in court and prove their innocence, they have to follow the procedures,” he said, urging due process for the officers.
To ensure transparency, Dela Rosa invited human rights advocates, priests and the media to join the relaunched program of home visits.
The police officers involved would also undergo a vetting process to weed out “rogue” officers, said Dela Rosa, adding that past abuses had involved the police seeking bribes to drop the names of people from the lists they compiled.
 


Iran deal architect among veterans named for Biden State Department

Updated 54 min 20 sec ago

Iran deal architect among veterans named for Biden State Department

WASHINGTON: The lead US negotiator of the Iran nuclear accord and a battle-tested hawk on Russia were named Saturday to top posts at President-elect Joe Biden’s State Department, signaling a return to normal after Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency.
Wendy Sherman, who brokered the Iran accord under Barack Obama and negotiated a nuclear deal with North Korea under Bill Clinton, was named as deputy secretary of state.
Victoria Nuland, a former career diplomat best known for her robust support for Ukrainian protesters in the ouster of a Russian-aligned president, was nominated under secretary for political affairs — the State Department’s third-ranking post in charge of day-to-day US diplomacy.
Biden said that the State Department nominees “have secured some of the most defining national security and diplomatic achievements in recent memory.”
“I am confident that they will use their diplomatic experience and skill to restore America’s global and moral leadership. America is back,” Biden said in a statement.
The State Department team will work under secretary of state-designate Antony Blinken, whose confirmation hearing will take place on Tuesday on the eve of Biden’s inauguration.
Blinken said that the State Department team, with women and ethnic minorities in prominent positions, “looks like America.”
“America at its best still has a greater capacity than any other country on earth to mobilize others to meet the challenges of our time,” Blinken said.
The optimism comes amid rising doubts about US leadership in Trump’s waning days after his supporters ransacked the Capitol on January 6 to try to stop the ceremonial certification of Biden’s victory.
Under outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a staunch defender of Trump, the United States has aggressively challenged Iran and China, robustly backed Israel and toyed with improving ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while also imposing sanctions on Moscow.
Sherman’s nomination marks another clear sign that Biden wants to return to the accord under which Iran drastically slashed its nuclear program in exchange for promises of sanctions relief.
Trump exited the deal in 2018 and imposed sweeping sanctions in what many observers saw as an unsuccessful attempt to topple the Shiite clerical regime.